Thirty-two months after an inquiry into the hospitals concession deal involving three former ministers was launched, NGO Repubblika said it has received information that the police force is being pressured to avoid prosecutions of current and former Labour MPs before the general election.
“Now that 32 months have passed since the inquiry which we asked for began, we feel it is legitimate to begin expecting that this inquiry will be finalised shortly, so we can start seeing results,” Repubblika president Robert Aquilina said.
Addressing a press conference held in front of St Luke’s Hospital earlier today, one of three public hospitals given away in the deal with Vitals Global Healthcare (now Steward Health Care), Aquilina said that over the past few days, the organisation is informed that there is “strong political pressure” to ensure “no Labour MPs are arraigned in court on corruption before the general election”.
The inquiry involves former economy minister Chris Cardona, former energy and health minister Konrad Mizzi, and former finance minister (now Central Bank Governor) Edward Scicluna.
The inquiry, filed by Repubblika on the basis of reports published by this newsroom in 2019, was pushed back repeatedly by the three disgraced former ministers on whose watch the €4 billion hospitals concession was signed.
“This political pressure is a scandal of its own. Justice should never look out for individuals, let alone the partisan needs of a political party or its politicians. The police commissioner and the deputy commissioner should not concede to this pressure, and, as we’ve been telling them to do for a very long time, should prosecute corrupt politicians as soon as possible,” he added.
Repubblika’s request sought to elicit an investigation on all three ministers in relation to allegations of money laundering and corruption in connection with the VGH deal. The original request was appealed by all three ministers, with judge Giovanni Grixti, who had also blocked an inquiry into the Panama Papers scandal, declaring that there was nothing to investigate.
When the three ministers appealed, they hit out at The Shift as “a partisan news outlet”, an allegation the Judge adopted in his decree, despite the fact that the attack by the ministers had been reported as “a threat to press freedom” by the Council of Europe stating that the three ministers attempted to “dismiss the scandal on the basis of ‘hate’, ‘mediocrity’, and ‘agendas’”.
Grixti’s decision was eventually overturned by magistrate Doreen Clarke when Repubblika filed another request in the same year. The magistrate had decreed that, in its submissions, Repubblika had presented a series of facts backed by evidence that could indicate that a crime had been committed, which led Magistrate Clarke to believe that there were all the elements required by law for an inquiry to take place.
The Shift’s Managing Editor Caroline Muscat presented evidence of the findings of the investigation to the magistrate two years ago. Nothing has been heard of the inquiry since.